'Chak De' Shah Rukh's magic will last a long time

Aug 20, 2007 Arpana

New Delhi, Aug 20 (IANS) After playing yuppie lover in several romantic films he got tagged as the best entertainer in the country. But Shah Rukh Khan has surprised everyone with his latest "Chak De! India" where his performance as a no-nonsense hockey coach establishes him as one of the finest actors in the Hindi film industry.

If writer Jaideep Sahni and director Shimit Amin are getting accolades for making such an unconventional film, Shah Rukh too is winning praise for his natural performance as Kabir Khan, the disgraced hockey player who tries to redeem his prestige by coaching the women's hockey team and making them winners.

Those who thought "Swades" was SRK's best performance, as an Indian American NASA scientist who comes home on a visit only to get involved in developmental projects in a village, will be surprised with his emoting in "Chak De! India".

The actor, who had earned much flak for doing "Kabhi Alvida Naa Kehna", shows his prowess and shuts up critics as "Chak De..." has so far not received any negative feed back.

While fans say they are proud of him for choosing an unusual film like this, critics across the globe are raving about how effortlessly he plays a coach who travels to glory from gloom.

"After 'Swades' Shah Rukh has again essayed a role where he has totally negated his own superstar self and completely become the character he is supposed to play. There is not a single trace of the superstar that we have seen in most of his films like 'Don'," said Anuradha, a Shah Rukh fan.

Critic Andy Webster in his review in New York Times writes: "For his part, Mr. Khan, to his credit, lets his co-stars' youthful charisma carry the movie. He also laudably portrays a man who vigorously and unabashedly advocates the advancement of women."

The film is based on former India goalkeeper Mir Ranjan Negi who lost his glory after conceding several goals in a match against Pakistan in the 1982 Asian Games final. He was dropped from the team. Negi returned to the hockey field, most grudgingly, 16 years later as a goalkeeping coach and helped India in winning the 1998 Asian Games men's gold at Bangkok and the women's gold at the Manchester Commonwealth Games in 2002.

Shah Rukh convincingly portrays the shame, disillusionment of the disgraced hockey player and determination to win back his prestige.

Negi, who was roped in as a technical director of the film, said he was impressed by Shah Rukh's performance.

"He is a fine actor and evoked the right emotions in the movie. He has done justice to the role," Negi told IANS.

Aditya Chopra's mega hit "Dilwale Dulhania Le Jayenge" gave the actor the yuppie romantic hero image, and others hits like "Dil To Paagal Hai", "Kuch Kuch Hota Hai" and "Kal Ho Naa Ho" built on that persona.

Post the success of these films he became the superhero and directors began to concentrate on his image, mannerisms and style. As a result, Shah Rukh never got enough chance to prove his versatility as one who could ably play unpredictable roles.

However, film critic Anumpama Chopra's recently released book "King of Bollywood: Shah Rukh Khan and the Seductive World of Indian Cinema" reveals that diverse roles give Shah Rukh creative satisfaction.

Which is quite true. The actor, who is often accused of playing safe and not working with untried directors, tried to be versatile in "Baazigar" and "Darr". They were anti-hero roles and nobody would have dared to touch them, but he managed to twist negative roles in his favour.

He has tried to play unconventional roles - in "Phir Bhi Dil Hai Hindustani", as a journalist, in "Asoka", a historical, and "Devdas", as an alcoholic lover. But the films, though appreciated, didn't benefit him much.

But it was Ashotosh Gowariker's "Swades" which was the turning point in his career, which critics described as his coming of age. His performance as NASA scientist Mohan Bhargava didn't show a single trace of his iconic attitude. He immersed himself in his character and wowed both critics and fans.

And now the acceptance of his role in "Chak De! India" substantiates the fact that there is perhaps no one like Shah Rukh.

People can go on arguing whether Aamir Khan or Irrfan Khan or Amitabh Bachchan is a better actor than Shah Rukh, but the truth remains that the superstar is being accepted as the best and one shouldn't underestimate his potential.

Such is the performance of Shah Rukh as Kabir Khan that it will live with the audience for a long time.

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Chak De India

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